- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 16, 2002

MOSCOW (AP) Russia formally lifted a monthlong ban on U.S. poultry yesterday, but an agriculture official warned that Moscow still was not entirely satisfied with the quality of U.S. chicken and would introduce new, stricter requirements in the next two to three months.

Russia's First Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Dankvert also said that no chicken exports would be accepted from Virginia, North Carolina, Maine and Pennsylvania, where Russian inspectors said they had found diseased chicken. That ban will remain in place for six months.

Mr. Dankvert told the Itar-Tass news agency that agriculture officials were working on the new requirements, which would be forwarded to the United States soon.

But he said they would likely demand that U.S. producers conduct gene analyses, antibiotics analyses and other tests. Mr. Dankvert said Russian agricultural officials also would place "stricter requirements [on] Russian businessmen who import food," the conditions of the poultry's storage and its transportation.

"The desire to import food at lower prices should not result in the deterioration of the health of Russian people," Mr. Dankvert told Itar-Tass.

Russian officials applied the ban after complaining about sanitary conditions in U.S. plants, including salmonella contamination, and the use of antibiotics and feed additives in chicken production. The ban was put in place as the United States was imposing sanctions on Russian and other foreign steel.

Washington accused Moscow of protectionism and insisted the poultry was safe.

The trade spat soured relations and officials from both nations were eager to clear it up in advance of President Bush's visit to Russia next month. Chicken is the top U.S. export to Russia, bringing in $600 million to $700 million a year to producers in 38 U.S. states.

In addition to the four states still facing a ban, Russia also said that 14 U.S. poultry plants that had exported salmonella-tainted chicken to the country will be banned from the Russian market. The plants have not been identified.

Mr. Dankvert told Itar-Tass that Russia had already sent back a ship carrying poultry from Virginia.

Avian flu has contaminated 46 flocks in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. It poses no health threat to humans, but the highly contagious disease may be spread by people or vehicles that have visited contaminated farms.

The flu virus has contaminated flocks comprising 1.11 million turkeys and chickens in Rockingham, Shenandoah, Page and Augusta counties. The affected birds will be destroyed.

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